Children who watch child-oriented cooking shows featuring healthy foods are 2.7 times more likely to make healthy food choices compared with those who watch cooking shows featuring unhealthy foods, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
“For the pediatrician, and for families and communities, exposing youth to choices that are healthy and presented in an interactive, attractive way makes these foods more appealing for kids,” Ellen S. Rome, MD, MPH, head of Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital’s center for adolescent medicine and professor of pediatrics at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case, told Healio. “We can talk with families about media literacy, including cooking and media use.”
Researchers examined 125 children aged 10 to 12 years for whom parental consent was obtained across five different schools in the Netherlands. The children were shown 10 minutes of a kids’ television cooking program featuring either healthy foods, unhealthy foods or a control program on food choice, and then asked to choose either a healthy or unhealthy snack. Healthy snack options included an apple or pieces of cucumber and unhealthy options included a handful of chips or salted mini-pretzels.
Among the children examined, 46 watched the healthy cooking program, 35 watched the unhealthy cooking program and 44 watched the control program. Children who watched the healthy cooking program had a higher probability of selecting healthy food than children who watched the unhealthy program (P = .027) or the control group (P = .039). Additionally, 41.3% of children who watched the healthy program chose healthy snacks, whereas just 22.7% of the children in the control group and 20% of the children who viewed the unhealthy program chose a healthy snack.
Rome, who was not involved with the study, noted that although healthy eating programs can be beneficial, how and where the programs are used is important in ensuring detrimental forms of “extreme” healthy eating do not develop.
“We know that youth, especially from high socioeconomic brackets, can take ‘healthy eating’ to the extreme, putting these children and adolescents at risk for eating disorders through ‘orthorexia’ — the layperson’s term now for overly healthy eating with resultant health complications,” Rome said.
She also emphasized the importance of media reinforcement in developing healthy eating habits.
“Exposure to healthy food can be a wonderful way to expand youth palates and combat pediatric obesity, while also teaching youth about balance,” Rome said. “Pediatricians can help parents and children find the balance between healthy eating and overly healthy eating, using various forms of media to reinforce these messages using strategies saturated with positive youth development.” – by Eamon Dreisbach
Disclosure: Rome reports no relevant financial disclosures.